A Bingham driving instructor has been honoured with an award from a group of American counterparts after he visited their annual conference in Boca Raton, Florida. Russell Jones was presented with the H. B. Vinson award in appreciation of his dedication towards promoting road safety by the Driving School Association of the Americas (DSAA). Here, Russell tells us how the award came about.
What led you to become involved with the DSAA?
Soon after becoming an ‘approved driving instructor’ (ADI) I attended a Driving Instructors Association (DIA) national conference in Croydon, and briefly met an American driving school owner which caused me to become curious about what driver training standards were in place in the USA. A year or two later the CEO of the DIA, Graham Fryer, was scheduled to attend a conference in Sarasota, Florida, so I decided to take a holiday, with my wife, over there and attend that same conference during the visit. That was the 2000 DSAA Conference, my first, and 2016 was my 17th.
What was your reaction on winning the award?
I have never, never, once even considered that I might be considered for an award at the events, it simply has never crossed my mind. So when the Master of Ceremonies announced my name at the banquet I was genuinely astounded, and found it very difficult to understand how such an honour was being bestowed on me. I am, of course, immensely proud to receive it. Especially as I am the first British ADI to win the award, though not the first Briton, as Graham Fryer, former CEO of the DIA, won it in 2011.
You have attended the conferences every year since 2000. What do you like about them?
The benefits for me attending every year are that the conferences hold many excellent workshops and presentations on ‘driver behaviour’ by psychologists, driver education specialists, tyre manufacturers, car designers, safety features designers, being just a few examples. Over a period of several days we get an opportunity to discuss and reflect on what we learn. Here in the UK, conferences are held for one day only, and it’s always rush, rush, with no time to relax let alone reflect on what has happened. Poor value in my view, and organisers know that. Things are slowly changing for the better, but it is going to take a long time to have good effect.
I have often given briefings to delegates at DSAA conferences about various driver training issues which are prevalent here in Europe, and how it would be advantageous for those ideas to be exported across to them. One example is the difference in steering technique, where we favour the ‘10 to 2’ position of hands on the wheel, whereas they are happy with the ‘10 and 4’ position. It has led to many interesting discussions, with, I am pleased to say, some having been converted to our method.
Next year’s DSAA conference is in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and I have been offered a free ticket worth $300 in return for giving a presentation of how British and other European countries do things over here. An offer I can’t refuse. Naturally! A visit to nearby Roswell might just result in meeting an alien or two, as they are there, allegedly...
My wife Carol and I now have many good friends among the American and Canadian driving instruction community, and will continue to attend many more such events, at least for the foreseeable future. Two of them have visited us here in Bingham, and sat in my car during lessons in Grantham. We enjoy touring and tuning in to the many country music radio stations, listening to the likes of Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton, et al.
You haven’t always been a driving instructor. What was your background before that?
We have lived in Bingham some 25 years, having arrived when I was based at RAF Newton, before deciding to change my life and become self-employed. Staying in the RAF longer would have resulted in ever more ‘desk bound’ jobs when further promotions would come my way. And I am most definitely not a fan of desks and paper-work.
In addition to my primary role in the RAF, I had vast experience in many different training roles, including assistant ski instructor – Alpine and Nordic, Squash Racquets coach, hill trekking leader, firearms response team leader, and not least, a few years involving continuation of driver training skills of young airmen who I was responsible for. So, it seemed to me, at the time of leaving the RAF, that a new career in civilian life might have benefits in training, transferring skills across to my new life. Hence becoming an ADI. A terrific job, and with the right minded people, mostly youngsters, I get a buzz when they respond to my way of doing things! My rewards are when they pass their tests and continue to be safe drivers. I charge premium rates and they get what they pay for! So they tell me! My son, Gareth, is an Airbus pilot, captain, based in Dubai.
My daughter, Nicola, is a hospital nurse, and her 12-year-old daughter, Rachael, is a Toot Hill pupil, and a terrific golf talent, who has made a brief appearance on Sky Sports when attending a golf lesson at this year’s Open championship at Royal Troon.